Carter energizes Futures Game

Carter energizes Futures Game

PITTSBURGH -- Early Sunday afternoon, Team United States emerged from PNC Park's third-base dugout and walked through the haze to take batting practice in preparation for the XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game.

The blue-chippers from 19 different organizations stormed the batting cage. Considering the speech they had just heard in the clubhouse, it was surprising they didn't storm Iraq.

With Gary Carter's words still ringing in his ears, Oakland outfield prospect Travis Buck grinned and said of his manager for the day, "He's pretty high energy."

In his exhortations to the freshly-convened collection of the brightest at all levels of the Minor Leagues, Carter told them, "You are representing yourself, your organization, the United States! Go out there and play hard!"

Carter also referred to playing aggressively, taking it one base at a time until they "reach the promised land," that five-sided hard plastic embedded as home plate.

Four bases at a time worked, too, as early two-run homers by Billy Butler and Joe Koshansky torched the United States' 8-5 victory over the World Team.

Merely another impact afternoon for The Kid, the Hall of Fame catcher who embarked two years ago on a managerial career with the same verve that carried him to Cooperstown.

As peppery and energetic as ever, which is really saying something, Carter referred to managing in the Futures Game as a great honor.

"I'm thrilled, and happy to be here, to be asked to manage for some of the greatest prospects in the Minors," Carter said.

"He was an unbelievable catcher for 18 years," Buck said of Carter. "To play that long, and play that long behind the plate, he had to be something special."

Carter enthusiastically accepted the task of mentoring, if only briefly, the chosen few of the eighth USA Futures Team. The physical talents that produced 324 homers and three Gold Gloves may not rub off, but he hopes his passion has.

"For me, the key was my intensity," Carter reflected. "I battled my way to the big leagues. I wasn't overall the best athlete around, but I always gave 110 percent.

"If these kids realize that, they'll be that much closer. Being in this atmosphere should help drive home the point. This has to be very exciting for them. And they know this is what's waiting for them."

Carter has no doubt a return to a big-league dugout awaits him. In fact, he outwardly hoped this high-profile event would get him "one step closer to my goal of getting to the big leagues as a manager."

In the relative obscurity of the lower Minors, Carter has already taken giants steps.

After a couple years of gradually working his way back into the game in the Mets' system (first as a roving instructor, then as Minor League catching coordinator), Carter made a splashy managerial debut in 2005. Under him, the short-season Gulf Coast League Mets went 37-16 and to the league championship.

This season, more of the same: He guided the Port St. Lucie Mets to the first-half title of the Florida State League, and they've begun the second half winning 10 of 13.

Carter knows he will one day manage in the Majors.

He knows how he will manage.

"Aggressively. That's how I would do it. And I know this game. I was behind there for 18 years," he said, gesturing toward home plate. "And during that time, I was an extra manager on the field."

He just doesn't know where he will manage. Carter isn't one to speculate about disappointing teams which might consider changing managers.

"If some team is going to make a change and wants to take a chance on me, fine," Carter said. "But I'm not one to wish anyone harm."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.